The National Association of Evangelicals, in the City of Brotherly Love for its annual convention last month, experienced an awakening of conscience. A “feeble awakening,” perhaps—as one well-known evangelical observed near the end of the four-day meeting—but an awakening nonetheless. With quiet candor and, at times, courage, a number of evangelicals addressed themselves to social problems of the day, particularly tensions between the races.
In some ways, the issues lay behind just about every speech or paper. NAE General Director Clyde W. Taylor said “evangelicals must take a renewed interest in the public life of our country,” and urged those present to meet “physical needs, help with the social problems, care for the sick.”
Donald Davis called divisions within the churches along racial lines “immoral” and “an abomination” in the sight of the Lord. Radio preacher Joel Nederhood asked how evangelicals can be “so untouched” by inner-city problems. His answer: Maybe they “do not see the people”; they see “only their souls.”
Speaking to 1,500 persons in a University of Pennsylvania auditorium the first night, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon echoed some of these concerns. He called on the Church to set straight the values of the nation, correct the evils, and indicate to all Americans that “our affluence and our money are not enough.”
The most perceptive moments came during commission meetings scattered throughout the day. The evangelical-action and social-concerns commissions heard David L. McKenna, young new president of Seattle Pacific College, claim that in public morality, the evangelical church “wavers in the uncertainty of pluralism and relativism,” thus producing a “whisper” on moral issues that is “too weak” to call the churches to moral action. The carefully prepared paper drew a long, uninformed rebuttal that left some visibly annoyed.
At a quieter session the same hour, a panel of ministers discussed their inner-city work in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. One panelist said he had no answers on civil disobedience but believed it is often necessary. Significantly, this produced no reaction, only a request for help in explaining the idea to isolated suburban churches. Some estimated that half of those present might be ready for action along these lines.
The convention itself never got beyond talk about social action, and the resolutions did not always get that far. The most timely resolution, on “The Crisis in the Nation,” said little more than the truism that all men need the Gospel. It bemoaned evangelical failure to give an “active testimony” and spoke only of witnessing to those who are “oppressed and afflicted.”
Delegates defeated a motion to add to the few minimal suggestions for action this sentence: “We can urge our respective denominations to begin to spend similar amounts of money on the evangelism of black men in America as they do on the evangelism of black men in Africa.”
Defeat of the amendment was all the more significant because it followed by minutes an identical but unconnected recommendation by Negro evangelist Tom Skinner. In a brief address, Skinner urged intensive efforts to evangelize the Negro community and reported on a project to engage 3,000 white and Negro volunteers for such a witness in Newark, New Jersey, this summer. The project was endorsed by the most recent Key Bridge meeting.
Skinner also expressed dismay that so few Negroes were at the NAE convention. Apparently, most were at a gathering of the National Negro Evangelical Association in Chicago.
A number of delegates spoke favorably of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although nearly all expressed dissatisfaction with his liberal theology, none mentioned that he had been turned down by a number of orthodox seminaries because he was a Negro.
Resolutions were adopted on law and order (for), and on drugs and alcohol (against). A third paper tried to analyze the role of “A Witnessing Church in the Secular World.”
Speakers were more forceful on the subject of evangelical unity. NAE Executive Director Billy A. Melvin said the time has come when needless competition among evangelicals must be eliminated. In one of the few papers strongly undergirded by theology and biblical exegesis, Westminster Theological Seminary President Edmund P. Clowney argued for visible unity based on biblical perspectives. “It is vain to say that we are united upon the Bible if we cannot, as a matter of fact, use the Bible as the path to union.” He said that “the more evangelicals perceive the reality of the spiritual existence of the Church,” the more they must acknowledge “the open manifestation of that unity.”
NAE elected as president Dr. Arnold T. Olson, head of the Evangelical Free Church. With evangelicals awakening, perhaps Olson and other new officers can find the answer to the question Taylor raised in his opening address: “What will it take to get the evangelicals to move?”
Yale University reappointed the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., as chaplain but said it would review his status if pending federal charges of conspiring to help youths avoid the draft later appear to raise questions about his fitness.
The FBI arrested the Rev. James Webb, Baltimore director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, on charges he had been a Marine Corps deserter from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, since September.
The Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the century’s leading Protestant preachers, is to mark his ninetieth birthday May 24.
Olaf Christiansen retires next month as choir director at St. Olaf College (American Lutheran), one of the top college choirs in the United States. The group was founded in 1912 by Christiansen’s father, and he has led it since 1940.
Winton M. Blount, 47, contractor, active Presbyterian layman, and leader of a biracial committee set up by Montgomery, Alabama, was elected president of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
Father Charles Curran, whose firing and rehiring caused an uproar at Catholic University last year, says if the condition is “irreversible,” homosexuality “may be the only way such a person can find a warm, meaningful human relationship.”
Dr. James Luther Adams, noted Unitarian theologian at Harvard, has been named social-ethics professor at Andover Newton Theological School (United Church of Christ-American Baptist).
President William H. Kadel of Florida Presbyterian College was elected executive secretary of the Southern Presbyterians’ Christian education board.
Anglican Bishop Robert H. Mize, a native of the United States, said South Africa is expelling him July 1 without explanation. Mize said he had avoided making an issue of apartheid, unlike Bishop C. Edward Crowther, who was ousted last year.
Dr. Eugene W. Linse, Jr., of Concordia College, Minnesota, has been named director of open-housing efforts in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Executive Director J. Philip Hogan of the Assemblies of God foreign missions was elected president of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association, which encompasses sixty-four agencies and about 8,000 missionaries.
Anglican Archbishop Frank Woods of Melbourne, Australia, issued a pastoral calling on two “agnostic” clergymen in the diocese to resign. One, the Rev. Peter Lane, admitted recently, “I do not know whether God exists.”
King Olav named Bishop Fridtjov Birkeli, 61, as primate of Norway, after he won a church vote.
Pope Paul told representatives of Catholic and Protestant Bible societies that all Christians should have “easy access” to Scripture, and endorsed joint translations. Vatican observers believe the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., may spur the Pope to issue a strong encyclical against racism.
Led by Southern Baptist pastor Harold O’Chester, a religious-civic “Committee of Conscience” was formed in Meridian, Mississippi, to rebuild Negro churches hit by arsonists, two days after the burning of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. It is the city’s first biracial effort.
The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization plans a $35,000 campaign to recruit Eastern Negro leaders to train Los Angeles Negroes in community-organization methods.
John E. Morse, church-building head of the United Church of Christ, said the tight money market and high interest rates are hitting hard at badly needed church building programs. “We can’t continue at this rate,” he said.
Cincinnati Presbytery approved a citywide congregation to focus solely on racial reconciliation, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Members drawn from existing churches must pledge full commitment of time and resources to reconciliation for at least one year. The congregation will use buildings of other congregations but have its own pastor.
The Rev. William Parrish quit as executive of the Greater Milwaukee Council of Churches, along with a council hospital chaplain, because of the council financial emergency. The council president said churches are facing a squeeze because some people don’t like their social activism.
By the end of next month, sixteen missionaries of the United Church of Canada and United Church of Christ will leave the Portuguese colony of Angola because of harassment of Western missionaries and persecution of African Protestants.
Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist representatives in Ireland announced their intent to pursue church unity. The proposal goes before this year’s denominational conventions.
Anglican Bishop John Tiarks of Chelmsford, England, ordered a complete ban on infant baptism unless parents and godparents take a special preparation course. If the sessions reveal parents are not seeking church membership and instruction for the child, a service of blessing will be substituted.
The official magazines of the Anglican and United Churches in Canada published a joint editorial supporting merger of the denominations, and called the present target of 1974 reasonable.
Two days before the end of the term, Union Theological Seminary suspended classes in support of the student strike at neighboring Columbia University.
The head of a new prison-visitation program by peace churches said at least seventy-four conscientious objectors are in federal prisons because they refused to register, registered and later changed their minds, or were refused CO status by draft boards.
The International Union of Gospel Missions voted at this month’s Roanoke convention to establish contacts with U. S. Health, Education, and Welfare officials to gain a voice in discussions of alcoholic rehabilitation and mental health. The union represents 260 U. S. rescue missions and a dozen in Canada.
Ministers opposed to Social Security on religious grounds must file Form 4361 with the government by next April 15.
The Federal Communications Commission may fine the radio station at Bob Jones University $1,000 for running Pepsi-Cola ads that apparently are a lottery.
A team of 130 Inter-Varsity students and twenty staffers reported more than forty decisions for Christ during Easter-week student evangelism on the beaches at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The thirty-five affiliates of United Bible Societies last year gave away or sold at below cost more than 100 million Scriptures.
Associate Director C. Stanley Lowell of Americans United for Separation of Church and State charges in a new pamphlet that “the practical effect” of America’s Viet Nam policy has been an image of “establishing the Roman Catholic religion in Viet Nam.”
Some 2,000 professions of faith were reported in eight days of meetings by Texas evangelist James Robison, 24, sponsored by 137 Phoenix, Arizona, churches, mostly Southern Baptist.
Christian Medical Society sent 160 doctors and dentists to give two weeks of free medical care in the Dominican Republic.
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